Posted in biographical sketch

Two kinds of thinking

This morning in response to a set of questions from Jon Murphy at GoGeomatics in Ottawa, I found myself answering the question : Who gets to call themselves a Geographer ? This caused me to reflect on my fifty or so year career associated with a specific academic discipline (to be added  link).

thinkingTractorAfterwards, I was driving my son’s tractor to bush hog the lower field on his property. Last week, I had discovered that the PTO (power take off )  was not driving the mowing unit. Over $1400 later, I had an operational unit. This was the test.

This led to the following realization. There are two types of thinking. The academic, focused on abstract ideas, and the practical, focused on understanding the mechanics of a tractor and its related parts.

It is a scary proposition, upon retirement, to make the transition from one to the other. Although I am sure for many people it is possible to switch back and forth between the two modes. Not so, in my case.

I can easily imagine situations where an individual has gotten used to one set of thinking practices and suddenly, they are expected to apply a different set. The stereotype is the ‘gentleman farmer’. Of course, it is exhilarating to take the risk, and even better the satisfaction of completing the task at hand.

I have this image. Across the Valley, there is a cadre of professionals who have retired to get their hands dirty but they are challenged by the demands of the two kinds of thinking. Just as in the academic world you depend on access to functional technology, the same is true in the farming world. It is critical that the tools are well-maintained and can be considered your ‘best friend’ to complete the task.

What happens if you are unable to move seamlessly back and forth between the two kinds of thinking. One answer is to find a mentor. Another is to go back to trade school.

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